Yes, it is a confronting image, the photos and footage of these deadly fires is confronting in more ways than one. Thank-you to all our Firefighters and Defence Personnel battling their hearts out to save lives and property in these unprecedented fires impacting many parts of Australia. My heartfelt sympathy for all those affected by this disaster.
Our PM, Scott Morrison is right when he said that even if we (Australia) stopped all Carbon emissions that would have had no effect on these bushfires, he is right when he says we are only a small carbon emitter (only 1.3% of total global emissions although we are one of the highest polluters per capita ) so anything we do will have little effect on the global problem. While he is correct on these two points, how can we ask the rest of the world to change its polluting ways when we are not prepared to do the same??
Not that long ago, Australia was a highly respected member of the world community, we were perceived as a fair, compassionate and honest broker in the Asia/Pacific with stable, accountable government, strong non-partisan institutions, excellent scientific/medical research teams and often punching above our weight on the sporting field.
Then something changed, a few key moments are listed below.
- Lies from senior government ministers about refugee children being thrown overboard by their parents in 2001 north of Christmas Island.
- The spying scandal in 2004 involving ASIS bugging the Timor Leste PM's office to help Woodside Petroleum get a better deal in the negotiations over the sea border between the two countries.
- Our ongoing appalling treatment of refugees abandoned on Manus and Nauru.
- The embarrassment of being the first country in the world to repeal the price on carbon pollution in 2014.
- The recent AFP (Australian Federal Police) attacks on journalistic freedom (Annika Smethurst and the ABC offices etc)
- Our Government is even threatening to put environmental protesters in jail.
- And worst of all, cheating at cricket, "Sandpapergate"!
These events and others like them have been roundly condemned across the free world in many highly respected forums and media outlets. Our government has become sneaky and secretive.
So how does this relate to the current bushfire disaster?
This is how. For years we have been told we need to plan for longer and more dangerous fire seasons and droughts due to the effects of climate change.
CFA Chief, Steve Warrington says this seasons fires have the potential to be just a dress rehearsal.
Because carbon emissions are a major factor in what is driving our increased bushfire risk, it is in Australia's interest to argue strongly on the world stage and at climate forums (like Paris and more recently, Madrid) for all countries to reduce their emissions.
Our recent loss of respect on the world stage makes this task much more difficult, so what does our Pentecostal PM do instead?
He sends the Minister for Energy and emissions (reduction? ), the hapless Angus Taylor to sabotage the Madrid climate talks and argue for Australia to actually do less in the emissions reduction space by employing an accounting trick to allow us to use so called carbon carry-over credits because we apparently beat our targets from the Kyoto agreement.
You can't make this stuff up.
This put us in the league of other "responsible" world citizens such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia, who along with Australia, sabotaged any chance of getting further emission reduction targets going forward at the Madrid talks.
As I said earlier, how can we put pressure on the big polluters like China, India and the US if we are not prepared to do our bit as well?
Back in Australia we have this disaster unfolding but our PM wouldn't even bother meeting a group of fire chiefs a few months ago who wanted to warn about the dangerous upcoming fire season.
It is perhaps instructive to view the ALP's fire fighting policy from last years election. I wonder what difference the availability of these aircraft would have made to the current situation?
Of course all the emissions reduction in the world won't help us if we continue to rapidly grow our population along with the resultant depletion of resources and natural habitat this brings.
But big corporations want growth, growth growth.
Unfortunately they have the decision makers in their pockets.